The Sawmill District…A New Urbanism

Sawmill Market rendering

Sawmill Market rendering

Today, the former home of Frank Paxton Lumber Company is a scruffy blue-and-white warehouse down Bellamah Avenue in Albuquerque’s Sawmill District. In the early 20th century, it was part of a bustling lumber district whose neighborhood-wide operations earned the quarter its moniker. In the ensuing century, Albuquerque has grown up around Paxton Lumber—most recently in the form of the residential Sawmill Lofts and the luxurious Hotel Chaco—and the neighborhood has become an A-plus location, nestled between Downtown, Old Town and the Rio Grande River. By early 2019, that vintage lumber building will be the home of the state’s first food market in the style of San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace and New York’s Gotham West Market, to name two. Continue reading

Romero Farms

ROMERO_01_kl_2017Matt is one of the most popular, colorful vendors at the market, offering samples, recipe ideas, growing tips and answers to just about any question a shopper may have. He is what you might call “a farmer’s farmer”—skilled at his craft, devoted to his labor and happy to share what he’s learned with others. Yet Matt didn’t grow up on a farm and he didn’t harbor a lifelong desire to connect to the land through growing things. He worked as a chef, instead, honing a creative sense of flavor and an instinct for what people like to eat.

“I know I’m doing the planet a favor, but that’s not why I’m doing it,” Matt says, taking a break from mowing on a recent spring morning at the farm. “I’ve always loved producing good food for people, whether it was at a restaurant and I bought and cooked it, or here on the farm, where I grow it. I still feel pride over what I do and the knowledge that I share with people. For example, someone will say ‘I don’t like radishes.’ If you don’t like them, and then you try them, then you’re a perfect test case. Every year, I see people try things they don’t like and then they taste it and they change their mind.” (Case in point: when I arrive at the farm for our interview, Matt hands me a warm breakfast burrito, stuffed with his red chile and homemade elk sausage sourced from an animal he and his daughter brought home from a hunting trip. Although I normally don’t eat elk, this was one of the best burritos I’ve ever had.) Continue reading

The Corn Man

Taos Family Foods

Taos Family Foods

Have you ever counted the kernels on a single cob of corn? Each seed is secured within a meandering row running the length of the cob. And sure, you could count each kernel, but knowing the number would not describe one cob of corn any better than simply knowing the taste of it, or feeling its rhythmic surface in your hand.

This is a tale of a few of those kernels of corn. There is no single story of corn in New Mexico. From an agricultural perspective, corn is so integral to the mythology, landscape, agricultural and aesthetic landscape of New Mexico that it could take multiple shelves of the library to tell that story in a truly comprehensive way. Instead, we are going to travel the route of one row of kernels on one cob of corn, to see where those stories lead.

The seeds of this particular story were first planted over three decades ago. Today, just minutes from Taos Plaza, on a surprisingly chilly mid-May morning, native corn seed is being planted in rows. The seed falls from a 37-year-old piece of machinery called a “planter” (affectionately named Romeo) attached to a 38-year-old John Deere named Moses, driven by a young man from Arkansas. Lifelong farmer David Frazier likes to name his machines because he looks forward to a long working relationship with them. His young dog Critter runs alongside, always with David in her sights…except perhaps when she sees a rabbit. Continue reading

The Big Chèvre – Old Windmill Dairy

DSC_2284Can baby goats stampede? I’m still not sure, but I am sure that 70-some two-month-old kids unleashed from their corral and running toward awaiting bottles is an entirely joyful sight. Their long ears flopping, their spindly legs barely finding purchase on quarter-size hoofs. This spring, my fellow baby goat feeders at The Old Windmill Dairy’s farm visit wait innocently as the wave of goats floods us, pooling around our knees, and voraciously searching for their bottles. When they can’t find one or they get shouldered aside, they settle for suckling our fingers or untying our shoelaces. Effervescent laughter ripples through the crowd. A few minutes later, their bellies absurdly bloated on their tiny frames, the babies demur. I pick one up, No. 245, and—after a failed attempt at eating my earring—she tucks her feet into the crook of my arm like a cat, settling in for a nap.

Awash in this overwhelming adorableness, it’s easy to forget: Soon, these kids will grow up and, like their milk-heavy mothers, help make some seriously good farmstead cheese. Since it opened in July 2007 as a Grade-A dairy, The Old Windmill Dairy has earned a handful of awards for its popular chèvres as well as its semi-hard cheeses. Fifteen years into his business journey, Michael Lobaugh lights up recalling when he’s earned compliments from his customers. “The joy of it is seeing the end product,” he says. Continue reading

Harvest Time in Corrales

deesanchez-2016-posterA 1930s tractor pulling a trailer stacked with hay bales chugs past farm stands overflowing with fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes and chiles. Horses clop down main street past musicians strumming folk music. These sights are juicy slices of Americana, and they aren’t scenes of yesteryear. In Corrales, they unfold during the annual Corrales Harvest Festival, held Oct. 15–16.

Farming has deep roots here—from the Tiwa Puebloans who resided in pit houses here around 500 A.D. to the two-dozen Spanish families who settled along the floodplain of lower Corrales in the 1700s. In the 1800s, gourds gave way to grapes when French and Italian immigrants planted vineyards. Later, prohibition stamped out these vineyards, and cattle ranching, orchards, and cornfields moved in.

The Harvest Festival has more contemporary origins, though. When the San Ysidro Church decided to forgo its own seasonal celebrations, Corrales grand-dam Evelyn Losack decided to continue the festivities in her own way in 1985. (Losack passed away earlier this year.) That year, Al Knight, an early volunteer, visited Disneyland and marveled at the way the vacation spot transported visitors from the parking lot to the main gates. He and a few friends, including Roy Soto and Rick Harris, gave the system some local flavor, revving the engines of their tractors and hitching trailers to transport visitors from La Entrada, down Corrales Road, to the Old Church. Since then, the hayride circuit has been the festival’s marquee attraction—and primary not-so-rapid-transit system. Continuing the festival’s tongue-in-cheek nature, the trio even made themselves Corrales Yacht Club jackets to wear while driving. The Kiwanis Club of Corrales Foundation took over organizing the festival a few years ago, giving the grassroots effort a bit more formality. Continue reading

Support New Mexico Chile Growers- A Letter from Pamela Schaefer

It’s that time of year. The nights are getting cooler, and on sunny weekend days, the smell of green chile being roasted fills the air and sets our senses tingling.   But do you know where the chile you are buying or ordering in your favorite restaurant was grown? Just because you find chile in New Mexico, doesn’t mean it is from New Mexico.

New Mexico chile is known for its incredible flavor and fiery heat. Chile is so intrinsic to everything New Mexican that our state question is “Red or Green?” We put it on everything from eggs to cheeseburgers to turkey sandwiches and pizza. Chile production contributes significantly to our state’s economy and tourism industry and is celebrated at festivals throughout the state.

Chile harvested in New Mexico has been in continual decline, with foreign companies taking advantage of reduced regulation and cheap, plentiful labor. If this trend continues, our chile crop could virtually disappear in a few years. You have probably heard the stories about chile being sold as “Hatch” or “New Mexico Grown”, when it comes from outside New Mexico, or even outside the United States. You would probably be surprised at the popular New Mexican restaurants that use chile grown outside of New Mexico.

In response to consumer demand for real, authentic, home grown New Mexican chile, The New Mexico Chile Association developed The New Mexico Certified Chile Program (NMCC). The NMCC works to verify and certify the chile you buy and consume is actually grown in New Mexico, and it is free for small farmers, farmers markets, restaurants, grocers and distributors.

How can you be certain that you are getting genuine New Mexico chile? Ask! Next time you eat out or purchase chile to cook at home, ask where the chile comes from. Look for the NMCC logo at your favorite restaurant and read grocery store labels carefully. If you are proud of the tradition that chile represents and want the guarantee of the unique flavor, high quality and reputation of New Mexico chile, make sure it is certified, home grown in New Mexico. Ask your grocer to stock New Mexico chile and New Mexico chile products. When you dine out, ask for New Mexico chile.

You have many choices with places to eat and buy chile. If you support the chile growers and producers that are keeping the tradition of New Mexico grown chile alive, then frequent the restaurants and buy from those that are certified by the NMCC. Help ensure that we will continue to grow and enjoy the best chile in the world for generations to come.

Pamela Schaefer, Director
New Mexico Certified Chile Program